Description: William Chisholm was born on October 15, 1788 in Jordan Bay, Nova Scotia, where his father, a loyalist, had emigrated during the American Revolution. When William was five, his family relocated to Upper Canada, and in 1812, he married and then three months later participated in the capture of Detroit during the War of 1812.
In 1828, Chisholm succeeded in having an acted passed that gave him control of the harbour at Oakville for the next fifty years, and that August Chisholm’s men launched the first in a long series of schooners form his Oakville shipyard. Besides the shipyard, Chisholm also owned the village’s first tavern, sawmill, and grist-mill, and through the years, he served as collector of customs and postmaster.
In February 1837, the government of Upper Canada appropriated £500 for erecting a lighthouse at Oakville, and appointed three men, one of whom was William Chisholm, to oversee the project. The commissioners provided the following report following the completion of the lighthouse:
The Commissioners advised with several of the Masters of Vessels, respecting the proper place to erect the Light-house, and after due consideration, the end of the Pier was decided upon. To make the foundation sufficient, it was found necessary to sink three additional cribs.The cost of the lighthouse, a wooden, octagonal tower with a height of thirty-six feet, came to £852, with William Chisholm paying for the £352 overrun.
It is likely that William Chisholm oversaw the keeping of the lighthouse as part of his responsibilities as collector of customs. In 1840, Chisholm incorporated the Oakville Hyrdaulic Company to further develop the water power of Sixteen Mile Creek, but this venture failed and brought down with it most of Chisholm’s empire. Chisholm declared bankruptcy in 1842 and died shortly thereafter at the age of fifty-four.
The demise of the first Oakville Lighthouse was noted in the report of the Department of Marine for 1886:
The great easterly storm of the 7th April last destroyed the east pier at the entrance of Oakville Harbour, Lake Ontario, and carried away, with the pier, the lighthouse standing upon its outer end. A temporary light was immediately thereafter established on the beach beside the inner end of the pier, and at the present entrance to the harbour. It consists of a fixed white light, shown from a tubular lantern, elevated on a mast 28 feet above the ordinary level of the lake, and should be visible 10 miles from all points of approach. Nothing can be done towards erecting a new lighthouse until the breakwater pier has been rebuilt.The Public Works Department rebuilt the east pier in 1887, and the temporary light was moved to its outer end. That same year, John George of Port Elgin was awarded a $937-contract for erecting a new lighthouse on the pier.
The new lighthouse, a hexagonal wooden tower surmounted by an iron lantern, was placed in operation on June 4, 1888. A sixth-order lens was used in the lantern room of the tower to produce a fixed white light at an elevation of thirty-nine feet above the lake. The tower itself measure thirty-one feet from its base to the vane on its lantern, but it was placed atop a cribwork block that stood six-and-a-half feet above the pier.
Damage to the pier necessitated moving the lighthouse sixty feet shoreward in 1893 and another thirty-six feet the following year. In 1895, the tower was moved to the inner end of the pier to protect it.
After the pier was repaired, the tower was returned to the outer end of the east pier, where it served until 1960, when it was moved to the grounds of The Oakville Yacht Squadron and replaced by a cylindrical cement tower. Today, a cylindrical white tower with a red upper portion displays a flashing red light from the east pier.
Robert Kerr Chisholm (1866 – 1894), Maurice Felan (1894 – 1921), Frank McCraney (1921 – at least 1940).
Located on the grounds of Oakville Yacht Squadron in Oakville. The lighthouse is owned by Oakville Yacht Squadron. Grounds open, tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by Oakville Yacht Squadron. Grounds open, tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.